“Motivated by faith, Moses left Egypt behind him, undaunted by the king’s anger. He persevered as though he could actually see the One who is invisible. Through faith he instituted the Passover by sprinkling blood upon the doorposts, in order that He who killed the firstborn Egyptians would not do the same to the Israelites. Faith enabled the people to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians who attempted to follow them were drowned.” (paraphrased)
Moses killed an Egyptian overlord, believing the other Israelites would understand God had sent him as their deliverer (Acts 7:23-29). Fearing the wrath of Pharaoh, he fled to Midian (Ex. 2:12-15). But he had not left Egypt permanently, for he returned forty years later. He forever abandoned that nation when he led God’s people out. The word “forsook” (katelipen) refers to a total and final rejection. When negotiating with Pharaoh concerning the release of the Israelites, Moses was fearless and uncompromising. Although Pharaoh suggested several alternatives, in the end he was forced to yield unconditionally (Ex. 12:31-32). Moses’ earlier journey to Midian was prompted by fear, but his journey to the Promised Land was prompted by faith.
Moses accepted his task when the odds of success were overwhelmingly against him. At this time, the nation of Israel numbered 603,550 men who were twenty years or older (Num. 1:45-46). When the women and children are factored in, this figure is greatly multiplied. To rescue and guide this group of people required a person of great faith. Moses’ task was formidable. He was commissioned to lead myriads of newly emancipated slaves through an uncharted desert to a distant and unfamiliar land. He had neither resources, army, nor provisions. The people were often ungrateful and disgruntled (Num. 11:5-6). Nothing in the natural realm suggested he could achieve his goals.
“Endurance” is a key word in this epistle. Abraham was renowned for his patient fortitude (Heb. 6:15). The readers were praised for enduring great afflictions (10:32). Jesus endured the cross of Calvary and Believers are called to endure chastening (12: 2-7). The only possible reason for Moses’ perseverance is the assurance God would accompany and assist him. Because faith places trust in things unseen, Moses had more regard for his invisible King than the Egyptian king (11:1).
In order to force Pharaoh into submission, the Lord brought ten plagues upon the Egyptians:
1. Water was turned to blood (Ex. 7:20).
2. Frogs plagued the land (Ex. 8:2).
3. Gnats swarmed over Egypt (Ex. 8:17).
4. Flies infiltrated the country (Ex. 8:21).
5. Animals became diseased (Ex. 9:3).
6. Blisters manifested (Ex. 9:11).
7. Hail and lightening came (Ex. 9:23).
8. Locusts devoured crops (Ex. 10:4).
9. Darkness prevailed (Ex. 10:21).
10. Egyptian firstborn sons were slain (11:5-6).
The final plague was the most devastating. All the firstborn males in Egypt would die, including the firstborn of their servants and even their livestock. While the Egyptians might have dismissed the first nine plagues as unusual acts of nature, the predicted deaths of all firstborn males of men and animals could not be explained.
Several things were commanded concerning the Passover. A spotless lamb was to be slain that evening (Ex. 12:5). The blood was to be smeared over the door and on the side posts (12:7). This animal was to be roasted with bitter herbs (12:8). It must be eaten in haste, with loins girded, staff in hand, and feet shod. They were to prepare for immediate departure (12:11).
True to God’s prediction, the angel of death came at midnight and smote every Egyptian dwelling (Ex. 12:30). The death angel bypassed the homes of Believers where the blood of the lamb was applied. Strict compliance was their only guarantee death would not claim their firstborn as well. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (12:13). That very night, Pharaoh surrendered to Moses’ demands and released the children of Israel (12:31).
The inaugural Passover was established according to God’s specific instructions. It continues to be celebrated annually as a reminder of their deliverance from bondage (Ex. 12:48). For Christians, the Passover is emblematic of the Lord’s Supper. Paul tells us that “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7). Jesus is referred to as the slain Lamb of God twenty-seven times in Revelation.
Moses and the Israelites were powerless to displace the waters of the Red Sea in order to cross over. Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching fast behind them. To the right and to their left were deserts and mountains. Their situation appeared hopeless. The Hebrews had but three choices: they could attack their pursers, submit without a struggle, or march into the sea. God ordered them to go forward, even though there seemed to be no way of escape (Ex. 14:15).
The writer states the Israelites passed through the Red Sea “by faith”, but this does not infer every person had unshakable trust in Jehovah. Almost immediately after their deliverance, they began complaining (Ex. 15:23-24).
Through the extensive history of Israel, God never allowed His people to forget the dynamic Red Sea miracle:
<> Moses reminded the people what God did “to the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and unto their chariots; how He made the waters of the Red Sea to overflow them as they pursued after you” (Deut. 11:4).
<> Rahab said, “we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt” (Josh. 2:10).
<> Joshua recounted how the Lord dried the sea for them, but brought the waters down upon the Egyptians (Josh. 4:23 & 24:7).
<> Nehemiah recalled how God heard the cry of the Israelites by the Red Sea, dividing the waters so they could pass through on dry ground – and then drowning their persecutors (Neh. 9:9-11).
<> The Psalmist praised God for dividing the Red Sea and overthrowing Pharaoh and his armies (Ps. 136:13-15).
<> Isaiah glorified God as the one who dried up the sea and made a way for the ransomed to pass safely over (Isa. 51:10).
<> Paul urged the Corinthians to recall how their forefathers passed through the Red Sea (I Cor. 10:1).
<> Stephen reminded the men of the synagogue of the signs God showed in Egypt – and in the Red Sea (Acts 7:36).
The invisible God of Moses can be contrasted to the visible idols of Egypt. “Assaying” (peira) means “to test or evaluate.” Pharaoh sized up the situation and decided his men could cross safely as well. He presumptuously entered the path between the separated waters – with disastrous results. This mass drowning serves as further proof that the waters were indeed held at bay by the hand of God for the safe passage of the Israelites.
The amazing rashness of the Egyptians led to their self-destruction. The sea was restored and the Egyptian army subsequently destroyed. There were no survivors (Ex. 14:27-29). In recent times, scientists have discovered chariot wheels, weapons, armor – and the bones of hundreds of men at the bottom of the Gulf of Suez.
Israel’s expressions of joy for their dynamic deliverance are captured in the final lyrics of what has become known as The Song of Moses. “Sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: horses and riders He has thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:21).
QUESTIONS: THE FAITH OF MOSES AND THE ISRAELITES
1. Who did Moses marry in Midian? (Exodus 2:21-22)
2. Which of the following is not one of the ten plagues?
3. What does Paul call Jesus in I Corinthians 5:7?
4. According to Exodus 14:28, how many men in the Egyptian army escaped the Red Sea?
5. In Exodus 15:22-24, what did the Israelites complain about?
6. In Exodus 16:3, what did the Israelites complain about?
B. cattle disease
E. bitter water
7. Who did Moses say they were really murmuring against? (Exodus 16:8)
8. According to Exodus 16:35, for how many years did God send manna?
9. What did God provide from a rock? (Exodus 17:6-7)
10. Write a paragraph concerning a “Red Sea” experience you have had, noting how God’s deliverance and timing seemed miraculous.